Ghosts of Old Louisville
Whisks yourself through the haunted highlights of the most significant Victorian historic preservation district in the United States. Outside, ghosts roam the streets and alleyways. Inside, your spirit will come alive as you step back in time and experience the grandeur of a time long past when a man’s home was his castle. Eerie and fascinating stories await you on your ghostly trek through an American treasure as you explore the incredible sights and sounds in historic Old Louisville, the spookiest neighborhood in the USA.
About Old Louisville
Gargoyles, chameleons, serpents, and swans – turrets, towers, bays, and gables- wrought-iron fences, hand-carved doors, stained-glass windows – hidden balconies, secluded courtyards, and secret passageways – terra-cotta, glazed brick, tile, marble, and stone. Old Louisville is a feast for the eyes, and as such, Kentucky can boast one of the most splendid residential neighborhoods in the entire country. A leisurely stroll along the tree-lined streets of Old Louisville can transport a visitor back in time to an era when a man’s home truly was his castle.
Victorian Gothic abounds, as do shining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, Italianate, Chateauesque and Beaux-Arts architecture, making Old Louisville the country’s largest Victorian neighborhood. As a National Preservation District, it ranks as the third-largest only after Boston and Georgetown. The picturesque boulevards, streets, and alleys of Old Louisville boast miles of grand mansions and comfortable dwellings, thousands in all, embellished with architectural styles and elements of centuries past from all corners of the globe.
Old Louisville has a very colorful history – mostly of local importance – and this history is kept alive and well in the many stories and anecdotes swapped in the parlors and salons of its gracious homes. First developed between the 1870s and the early 1900s, many consider the Southern Extension, as residents called it, Louisville ‘s first suburb. A major catalyst to its growth came in 1883 when Louisville hosted the extremely successful Southern Exposition and received international attention when then resident Thomas Edison showcased his incandescent light bulb. When it finally closed its doors in 1887, savvy developers started to sell off the land on the newly-dubbed Saint James and Belgravia Courts, realizing that image-conscious Victorians would snatch up anything reminiscent of London aristocracy. The rich and elite poured into the posh “new” neighborhood, and residents applied the name “Old Louisville” to the district in the 1950s.
While “Urban Renewal” caused the destruction of similar neighborhoods all around the country, most of Old Louisville somehow managed to escape the wrecking ball. After a blighted period in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, residents of Kentucky ‘s largest city started to realize that they had a diamond in the rough. Instead of giving in to the planned destruction of priceless examples of architecture, locals banded together and had the entire area placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Louisville Preservation District today includes approximately 48 blocks of the residential core bounded by Kentucky and Bloom Street to the north, and between Sixth Street and Interstate 65 to the east and west.
Old Louisville puts on its finery and southern charm in the springtime, just before the Kentucky Derby in May when crystal blue skies provide the perfect backdrop for a colorful explosion of azalea, dogwood and redbud blossoms. It shines in the crisp fall air of October as well, when hundreds of thousands flock to its quaint streets for the Saint James Art Show and stroll beneath a canopy of spectacular fall colors. Since the 1970s, Old Louisville has undergone an impressive renaissance, but it is still one of the “best-kept secrets” around. About 20,000 people, representing a wide spectrum of ages, incomes, races, and lifestyles, make Old Louisville their home today. This diversity, as well as the beautiful, turn-of-the-century Victorian homes and friendly residents, makes Old Louisville an exciting place to live, work and play. – David Dominé.
Visitors to this majestic house museum in the heart of Old Louisville have experienced uncanny sensations when they wander off from the group and try to explore the lavish interior on their own. Who – or what – could be the cause for the hauntings at this opulent Richardsonian Romanesque mansion built in the 1890s?
Legend of the Ice Boy
Come and hear the Legend of the Ice Boy, one of Old Louisville’s favorite ghosts. Just steps from the tranquil fountain that splashes in the heart of St James Court, a spectral ragamuffin haunts an Old Louisville landmark that burned in 1912.
Has anyone told you about the former life of the stately Spectrum Building? There’s still a lot of school spirit at this 1914 Louisville landmark, even though classes let out years ago. And it appears that some dedicated students insist on coming back.
South Sixth Street
Have you noticed the lovely, gray shingled building on South Sixth Street that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the neighborhood buildings? This impressive structure has a fascinating and eerie history that might explain the odd occurrences that plagued it in the 1940s.
1438 South Fourth Street
Do you know the remarkable history of the modest home at 1438 South Fourth Street? In 1901 a royal wedding here enthralled Old Louisville society when a local girl, Patty Ellis, married one of the richest men in the British Isles. Come find out why her sad spirit makes a ghostly visitation once a year at the family home.
Can you hear a strange creaking sound off in the distance? Perhaps it’s the ghosts of lovely Floral Terrace, wanting to let you in on the secrets of this secluded neighborhood’s fabled past. Yes, the manicured gardens are charming, but do they hide a more sinister secret in the spookiest neighborhood in the county?
Are you familiar with the sad story of the Widow Hoag? Take a stroll through peaceful and haunted Fountain Court, but don’t be surprised if you’re not the only one there. A ghostly apparition lurks in the shadows, refusing to leave until her lost son returns home.
Phantom of Brook Street
Have you heard the frightfully gripping tale of the Phantom of Brook Street? In the late 1880s, an unfortunate young maid named Jennie Bowman was attacked and killed by two thugs in her employer’s house on Brook Street. Many claim to see her forlorn spirit wandering to and from work – although the house was demolished years ago.
Did you know that locals claim the lost spirit of a lovely, raven-haired young girl in white haunts the neighborhood? The romantic, sad tale of the Lady of the Stairs will send delicious chills down your spine. Legend claims that she still waits for her betrothed on the steps of the majestic First Church of Christ, Scientist, even though she died almost 90 years ago.
Visitors Center in Historic Old Louisville
The Visitors Center in Historic Old Louisville is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM to assist you in experiencing the rich cultural heritage of Louisville. Whether you are looking to view the elegant architecture of the largest selection of Victorian mansions of the Old Louisville neighborhood or to experience the flavor and culture that the community offers it is a must-see on your visit to the 16th largest US city. This National Preservation District offers grand homes with architectural styles of centuries past along miles of tree-lined streets and boulevards.